Permaculture blends the concepts of self-sufficiency and living a natural lifestyle. To practice permaculture is to live within the natural bounds of an ecosystem. It is the study of nature and using what is learned to design, build and maintain natural systems that provide life's necessities.
What is a natural system? A natural system is a micro-environment that is self-sustaining. For example, there are two ways to produce a chicken egg. The egg comes from the chicken of course, but a chicken can be raised by common industrial methods or natural methods.
In an industrial system, the chicken lives in cramped quarters with thousands of other chickens and is given food that is produced from other farms that use machinery, fertilizers and pesticides. The chickens are given chemicals to increase the efficiency of egg production and given antibiotics to prevent diseases that are commonly found in these tightly, cramped factories. There is very little natural about the industrial produced egg and the number of unnatural resources used to produce just one egg is astounding. (From the electric power to run the machinery to the hormones given to the chickens. These factories use an enormous amount of energy.)
In a natural system, a chicken feeds itself for the most part. They are free to roam, eating vegetation and insects. (Believe it or not, chickens to have enough intelligence to forage for their own food.) Our responsibility to the chicken is to make sure the natural resources are made available to the chicken. A natural system such as this is a great benefit to the homesteader. The chicken will help keep the insect population down, eat weeds and fertilize the garden with its manure.
The key to permaculture is maintaining a natural cycle of farming methods. We must give back what we take away in order for the process to complete the cycle. It requires us to make conscious decisions regarding farming practices. This cannot be achieved in an industrial system, but it can be achieved on a small scale farm. The Amish have known this for a long time.
We have the intelligence as humans to make decisions as to what actions we take upon this planet. Each and everyone of us has the ability to make a difference. Study the natural processes around you and consider how you can contribute to rebuilding and maintaining natural cycles.
Every living being on this planet is interconnected. Whatever actions we take upon this planet has an impact. Permaculture is a means of providing the resources that we need to exist without disrupting the natural balance of the planet.